In draft, Jays give it the ol' college try
After taking a prep star first, they concentrate on older players
TORONTO -- Toronto's desire to quickly assemble a winning ballclub had a two-pronged effect on draft day this year: grabbing high schooler Travis Snider with the team's first overall pick on Tuesday and losing selections in both the second and third rounds.
During the previous four First-Year Player Drafts, general manager J.P. Ricciardi used roughly 80 percent of the club's selections on players in four-year colleges or junior colleges -- an attempt to pick up athletes who could advance through the organization at a more rapid pace than high schoolers.
That's exactly what happened. The Blue Jays' draft philosophy created a flood of players who moved up fast and are now at Double-A or Triple-A, which prompted a need for some younger players to develop in the lower tiers of the farm system.
Enter Snider, a 6-foot, 230-pound outfielder from Jackson High in Mill Creek, Wash. The Jays followed the 18-year-old for nearly a year before deciding to pick him up with the 14th pick in the first round. He wasn't the only prep star on the club's radar.
"We have identified more high school players this year than the past couple," said Jon Lalonde, Toronto's director of scouting. "But we have high school options, college options, and junior college options. It's just a matter of who we think is the best available player at that spot."
The Blue Jays explored all of those options. Toronto picked up 12 college players, three high schoolers and one junior college player in the 18 rounds on the first day of the 50-round draft, which concludes on Wednesday. The Jays selected six pitchers, four outfielders, four infielders and two catchers.
While the selections that followed the first pick were laden with college athletes, Lalonde knows Toronto took steps toward adding some youth to the Minor Leagues.
"I still think that we value the more mature college player," Lalonde said. "But at the same time, we do want to give ourselves some more options and see some younger players. That's one of the things I think we accomplished today."
One of the things Toronto accomplished in the offseason was acquiring some high-priced free agents to bolster its staff. When the Blue Jays inked pitchers A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan to five-year deals worth a combined $102 million, the club also lost picks in the second and third rounds.
"It's going to be different," Lalonde said. "We do have a pretty significant break and a lot of good players are going to fall off the board. But if our second-rounder ever turned into B.J. Ryan, I'd be pretty thrilled. So as much as I'd love to have a second- or third-round pick, I can't complain too much."
If it's any consolation, Ryan -- Toronto's dominant left-handed closer -- was taken in the 17th round by Cincinnati in 1998. That shows how unpredictable the draft can turn out to be in the end.
Here are the selections Toronto made following Snider on the first day of the draft:
Round 4: Brandon Magee, RHP, Bradley University:
Magee has a fastball that ranges from 89-95 mph and his slider has improved over a year ago. This season, the 6-foot-5, 205-pound right-hander struck out 101 batters and issued 28 walks in 105 innings for Bradley. In 14 starts, the 22-year-old Magee went 8-4 with a 2.66 ERA and fell just five strikeouts shy of Bradley's career mark of 262.
Round 5: Luke Hopkins, 1B, New Mexico State University:
The 6-foot-2, 240-pound Hopkins slugged 16 home runs and knocked in 65 RBIs this season. The left-handed 22-year-old posted a .403 batting average and was patient at the plate -- drawing 53 walks vs. 27 strikeouts in 44 games.
Round 6: Brian Jeroloman, C, University of Florida:
Scouting reports on Jeroloman indicate that he's a better hitter than his .242 average this season would indicate. In 56 games for the Gators, the 6-foot, 190-pounder belted six homers, had 39 RBIs, scored 40 runs and drew 38 walks. Jeroloman, 21, is known more for his sound defense than his offense, though.
Round 7: Jonathan Baksh, RF, Florida Tech:
Baksh, who is from Mississauga, Ontario, was the first Canadian player selected in this year's draft by Toronto. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound outfielder hit .468 with nine homers and 67 RBIs this year for Florida Tech. In 54 games, the 21-year-old Baksh scored 67 runs, collected 156 total bases and struck out just 13 times.
Round 8: Daniel O'Brien, LHP, Western Michigan University:
O'Brien -- a 5-foot-11, 195-pound pitcher from Chicago -- went 6-3 with a 2.68 ERA in 14 starts this year. The left-handeded 21-year-old struck out 93 batters and walked 23 in 87 1/3 innings for the Broncos.
Round 9: Stephen Figueroa, SS, Lincoln (Fla.) High School:
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Figueroa was the second high schooler taken by the Blue Jays in this year's draft. The 18-year-old infielder, who was scouted by Joel Grampietro, impressed Toronto with his sound defensive skills -- anchored by a strong arm.
Round 10: Scott Campbell, 2B, Gonzaga University:
Before suiting up for Gonzaga, the 21-year-old Campbell played for Macleans College and Central Arizona Community College. Campbell, who is from Auckland, New Zealand, bats from the left side and throws right-handed. The 6-foot, 190-pound infielder hit .389 with four homers, 24 RBIs, 48 runs, 39 walks and 17 strikeouts in 53 games.
Round 11: Matthew Lane, C, University of Washington:
Lane, 22, suffered a knee injury in 2005 and missed 14 games. This year, though, he rebounded by hitting 12 home runs, 11 doubles and driving in 43 runs in 59 games for Washington. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound catcher -- who bats left-handed and throws right-handed -- hit just .268.
Round 12: Jonathan Diaz, SS, North Carolina State University:
Diaz has a thin 5-foot-9, 158-pound frame, but has been known more for his defense at shortstop than his offense. The 21-year-old Diaz was one of the top-rated shortstops in the ACC last year -- posting a .966 fielding percentage in 63 games. Offensively, he hit just .255 with one homer and 31 RBIs. Diaz drew 39 walks and struck out just 26 times.
Round 13: Mikal Garbarino, OF, San Dimas (Calif.) High School:
Garbarino, who became the third high schooler selected by Toronto, hit .568 with seven home runs and 35 RBIs in 26 games this spring. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound outfielder scored 48 runs, drew 16 walks and struck out just twice. Garbarino, 18, posted a .663 on-base percentage and a 1.074 slugging percentage.
Round 14: Shawn Scobee, OF, University of Nevada:
The 6-foot, 205-pound Scobee displayed a strong arm in the outfield and a powerful bat at the plate. The 21-year-old hit .371, smashed 22 home runs, drove in 53 runs, and collected 144 total bases in 53 games for the Wolfpack. Scobee had an .847 slugging percentage and a .538 on-base percentage.
Round 15: Seth Overbey, RHP, University of Maryland:
Overbey was the first relief pitcher picked up by Toronto. In 49 innings out of the bullpen for Maryland, the 6-foot-2, 175-pound righty struck out 40, walked 10, and held opponents to a .269 batting average. Overbey, 21, went 5-2 with a 3.49 ERA.
Round 16: Chase Lirette, RHP, University of South Florida:
Lirette -- a 6-foot-4, 220-pound relief pitcher -- went 2-2 with a 2.90 ERA in 36 games for South Florida. In 40 1/3 innings, the 20-year-old Lirette had 45 strikeouts, issued eight walks and held batters to a .248 average.
Round 17: Kyle Ginley, RHP, St. Petersburg (Fla.) JC:
The 19-year-old Ginley has been drafted three consecutive years. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound pitcher was selected in the 24th round by Cincinnati last year and in the 28th round by the Yankees in 2004. Ginley, who was scouted by Joel Grampietro, was the only Junior College player taken by the Blue Jays on the first day of the draft.
Round 18: Kyle Walter, LHP, Bucknell University:
Walter saw limited time as a pitcher in his college career, but that didn't stop Toronto from drafting him. If converting him to a pitcher is not successful, the Blue Jays can move the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Walter to the outfield. This season, the right-handed-hitting 21-year-old posted a .335 batting average with three home runs and 37 RBIs in 47 games for Bucknell.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.